The really important kind of freedom involves attention and awareness and discipline, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them over and over in myriad petty, unsexy ways every day. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart-you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out. The only thing that’s capital-T True is that you get to decide how you’re gonna try to see it. If you worship money and things, if they are where you tap real meaning in life, then you will never have enough, never feel you have enough. We rarely think about this sort of natural, basic self-centredness because it’s so socially repulsive. If you worship money and things-if they are where you tap real meaning in life-then you will never have enough. It is about simple awareness-awareness of what is so real and essential, so hidden in plain sight all around us, that we have to keep reminding ourselves, over and over: “This is water, this is water.”. The whole trick is keeping the truth up front in daily consciousness. The thing is that there are obviously different ways to think about these kinds of situations. Not that that mystical stuff is necessarily true. If you're automatically sure that you know what reality is and who and what is really important-if you want to operate on your default-setting-then you, like me, will not consider possibilities that aren't pointless and annoying. It will actually be within your power to experience a crowded, loud, slow, consumer hell-type situation as not only meaningful but sacred, on fire with the same force that lit the stars-compassion, love, the sub-surface unity of all things. This is not a matter of virtue. And the compelling reason for maybe choosing some sort of god or spiritual-type thing to worship–be it JC or Allah, be it YHWH or the Wiccan Mother Goddess, or the Four Noble Truths, or some inviolable set of ethical principles–is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive. Worship power-you will feel weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to keep the fear at bay. But anyway, you finally get to the checkout line’s front, and you pay for your food, and you get told to “Have a nice day” in a voice that is the absolute voice of death. But it hasn’t yet been part of you graduates’ actual life routine, day after week after month after year. Or, of course, if I'm in a more socially conscious form of my default-setting, I can spend time in the end-of-theday traffic jam being angry and disgusted at all the huge, stupid, lane-blocking SUVs and Hummers and V-12 pickup trucks burning their wasteful, selfish, forty-gallon tanks of gas, and I can dwell on the fact that the patriotic or religious bumper stickers always seem to be on the biggest, most disgustingly selfish vehicles driven by the ugliest, most inconsiderate and aggressive drivers, who are usually talking on cell phones as they cut people off in order to get just twenty stupid feet ahead in a traffic jam, and I can think about how our children's children will despise us for wasting all the future's fuel and probably screwing up the climate, and how spoiled and stupid and disgusting we all are, and how it all just sucks, and so on and so forth…. Just last month I got caught away from the camp in that terrible blizzard, and I was totally lost and I couldn’t see a thing, and it was 50 below, and so I tried it: I fell to my knees in the snow and cried out ‘Oh, God, if there is a God, I’m lost in this blizzard, and I’m gonna die if you don’t help me.’” And now, in the bar, the religious guy looks at the atheist all puzzled. And look at how repulsive most of them are and how stupid and cow-like and dead-eyed and nonhuman they seem here in the checkout line, or at how annoying and rude it is that people are talking loudly on cell phones in the middle of the line, and look at how deeply unfair this is: I've worked really hard all day and I'm starved and tired and I can't even get home to eat and unwind because of all these stupid goddamn people. To be just a little less arrogant. Which is fine, except we also never end up talking about just where these individual templates and beliefs come from. It’s the stuff of Disney movies. We buy amazing businesses. This is Water by David Foster Wallace (Full Transcript and Audio), Hunter Thompson on finding your purpose and living a meaningful life, This Is Water: Some Thoughts, Delivered on a Significant Occasion, about Living a Compassionate Life, A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again, The Feynman Technique: The Best Way to Learn Anything, What They Don’t Teach You In Business School. Worship power, you will end up feeling weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to numb you to your own fear. That may sound like hyperbole, or abstract nonsense. They're the kind of worship you just gradually slip into, day after day, getting more and more selective about what you see and how you measure value without ever being fully aware that that's what you're doing. Stated as an English sentence, of course, this is just a banal platitude, but the fact is that in the day to day trenches of adult existence, banal platitudes can have a life or death importance, or so I wish to suggest to you on this dry and lovely morning. And when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally grieve you. Which means yet another grand cliché turns out to be true: your education really IS the job of a lifetime. And look at how repulsive most of them are, and how stupid and cow-like and dead-eyed and nonhuman they seem in the checkout line, or at how annoying and rude it is that people are talking loudly on cell phones in the middle of the line. Plus, there’s the whole matter of arrogance. The world as you experience it is there in front of YOU or behind YOU, to the left or right of YOU, on YOUR TV or YOUR monitor. Of course, none of this is likely, but it’s also not impossible. The myth of the lone genius. Probably the most dangerous thing about an academic education–least in my own case–is that it enables my tendency to over-intellectualise stuff, to get lost in abstract argument inside my head, instead of simply paying attention to what is going on right in front of me, paying attention to what is going on inside me. Other people’s thoughts and feelings have to be communicated to you somehow, but your own are so immediate, urgent, real. You haven’t had time to shop this week because of your challenging job, and so now after work you have to get in your car and drive to the supermarket.